Friday, August 12, 2016

District Conference Ethiopia

We arrived late Friday night in Ethiopia. We had District Conference scheduled on Saturday and Sunday. Last time we stayed at this hotel in Addis Ababa, Steve left a pair of flip flops. We were sure they were lost forever, but when he asked them about it, they went to the lost and found and brought them out to us. We were so surprised.

This is a Plexiglas covering (or glass, I can't tell) that cars drive under to drop off hotel guests. These workers are cleaning it and using a squeegee to push the water off after a rainstorm. They are standing on top of it without any safety straps. It is about 4 floors up. I was so shocked to look out the window and see them working out there. Obviously there is no OSHA in Ethiopia.

Saturday morning, the district leadership went out with the General Authority that was there, and the mission president. They divided up and visited members of the District who needed to be strengthened. President Collings went out with his companion, and they ended up meeting with a couple who had been separated. They came together for the meeting. President Collings shared scriptures, and gave them encouragement. He said the Spirit was very strong in their meeting, and the couple decided to try to work out their differences.

Once they were done with visits they all came back to the church for a priesthood leadership meeting. At this same time, I was in a women's auxiliary training meeting. When I first received the notice of how the meeting would go, I was a little bit nervous. It was 2 hours long. It said the District Relief Society president would take 15 minutes, the District Young Women's president would take 15 minutes, and the District Primary President would take 15 minutes. Then it said Sister Collings would take the remainder of the time... ME?!? That would have left me at least an hour. I kind of panicked. This mission is definitely stretching me. Well it turned out that all of the ladies speak Amharic, and none of them adjusted their time for the translator, which usually takes twice as long.  I had prayed pretty hard that I would be able to know how to teach these ladies. It was an answer to my prayer when we were in Rwanda, and the wives of the Area Presidency taught on exactly the same subject. I was able to see what was expected, and was at peace. The meeting was very nice, and was very well attended. And I felt good about what was taught.

That evening we had an adult session. We were able to hear from the District President, who spoke on Traditions of Latter-Day Saints, like family prayer, scripture study as a family, family home evening, Sabbath day worship, tithing, and having fun together. The Ethiopian people have many other traditions, and I think this really helped them to see how traditions can be positive and can bring your family closer to the Lord.  Then a return sister missionary spoke. She spoke on keeping the Sabbath day holy, and the blessings associated with that. There is a brother who is a counselor in one of the branch presidencies. He gave a powerful talk on improving the spirituality of Sacrament meetings. He promised that if they would come early, purify their heart and mind before coming, and keep the commandments, that they will receive constant companionship of the Spirit, and wisdom to choose the right.  A member of the district presidency spoke on teaching the Savior's way, and why it's important. President Collings then spoke on the way the Savior strengthened the one. He told them the way to do this is to complete their home teaching and visiting teaching. This is something that isn't happening in Ethiopia now. Our final speaker was Elder Chatora, who presided over the meeting. He quoted Psalms 30:5 "joy cometh in the morning". He said that through the atonement we can overcome ALL issues of the world. He asked if we are taking sacrament meeting seriously. Do we come prepared to offer our hearts to Jesus Christ? Do we know the importance of sacrament prayers? It is the only ordinance done EVERY week. We can't afford to miss the sacrament.

District Presidency with Elder Chatora

Elder Chatora had asked for a choir to perform for the Sunday session of district conference. During preparations it was obvious that there was a struggle getting a choir together. President Collings offered to have our missionaries sing. There were about 17 of us including the office staff, senior couple, and President Collings and myself. Our missionaries sang "Called to Serve", and it was AMAZING!! I was so proud of them!! Elder Chatora thanked them as well for bringing the spirit into the meeting. It was wonderful! I saw several members recording it and taking pictures, that's not usually the case in a session of conference, but I wish I had a copy...

During this session, we again heard from the District President. He talked about how our leaders care for us. He said we all have moments of need, and that we need to carry each other. Then we heard from the District Relief Society president. She spoke of the importance of paying tithing. She talked about how paying tithing will lift them out of poverty. Next was a young woman who is about 13 years old. She spoke on the importance of keeping the Sabbath day holy. I was very impressed with how much knowledge she showed. She had worked really hard, and was very confident in what she was saying.  One of the district presidency spoke on sacrifice. He said no good is done without sacrifice. He told the story of the rich man who had kept the commandments from his youth. He asked Christ what more he could do. He was told to sell everything and follow the Savior. He told the story of Abraham, and said we can't come close to God without sacrifice. I was asked to speak, and talked about the importance of reading the Book of Mormon everyday with your family, and alone. Then President Collings spoke on sustaining your church leaders. He quoted the scripture in D&C 1:38, and said that the District President is one of the Lord's servants who holds keys for this district. The things he tells them are things that they should be following.  Elder Chatora then quoted the scripture that says something like, "do not be weary in well doing, you are laying the foundation of a great work." Then he said, "I call upon each of us to ask, what can I do to build the kingdom of God in Ethiopia?" In 2001 priesthood session of General Conference, President Monson said something like, "The world is in need of your help. Don't be spectators." Elder Chatora told them to listen to the prophet's call. Save those that need saving. He said the parables of the lost sheep, prodigal son, and the lost piece of silver all focus on saving the one. He told the story of Ammon and King Lamoni's flocks, in a way I have never thought of before (Alma 17). When his flocks were scattered they rushed with swiftness and gathered them, and brought them to the place of water, and encircled them. He said the flocks are members of our church who are lost, and the church is the place of water. We are Ammon and the servants of King Lamoni, and it's our responsibility to rush with swiftness and encircle them, and love them, and bring them back. 
This is a panorama outside of the conference. President Collings was moving so he looks a little weird, but I like the picture.

Overall a very good conference. I truly enjoyed the spirit that was there, and the time I was able to spend getting to know the people of Ethiopia.

Elder Chatora

An amazing Branch President

After the meeting, President Collings spent time with the District Presidency, and Branch Presidencies, and trained them on having District and Branch Councils. The meeting went really well, and the spirit was very strong.

There was some other things going on in the country while we were there. There has been some civil unrest. There were whisperings that there may be riots in the country outside of Addis. When the mission leadership in Ethiopia heard about it, they contacted the missionaries and had them come to the district conference a day early. They were able to be here and enjoy the wonderful district conference, and also be a safe distance from the other things that were going on. It was not happening where the missionaries are staying, but there was a concern that the road they would travel may be closed. I just love how the Lord protects his missionaries. The only issue we had while in Ethiopia was that all social media and internet access was shut down. A bit inconvenient, but we never felt like we were in any danger. I did see a clip on the news, that looked a bit scary. I thought if I was at home and saw this, I'd be worried about my son. I was able to get a message to Sister Goodwin, and asked her to let the missionary moms know their sons were all safe. We also contacted the Southeast Africa Area President to let him know everything was okay. By the time the 2 day conference was done, and interviews were done, they were able to return to their areas with no issues.

On Monday we were able to meet with all the missionaries. President Collings interviewed them all, one by one, and I got to spend time asking them questions, and getting to know them better. It was such a great day! They are truly good missionaries. They put their whole hearts into what they are doing.

A few sights in Addis. These are shelters right on the side of the road. They are everywhere. The one on the right is the length of a person, it's just big enough that they can slide in there to sleep. I'm told that a lot of the security guards have one of these right outside of the gate that they are guarding.

This is on Ethiopian Airlines. Isn't Amharic beautiful? It sounds beautiful too.

We flew home on Monday night, and have started traveling the Uganda loop again to interview all of the missionaries. There's never a dull moment here. We love it!!

1 comment:

  1. Great writeup of the district conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Thanks for the mention of the teachings by the various speakers. I am very interested in the progress of the Church in Ethiopia.

    How long has there been an organized district in Addis? Were there many members that attended the conference from towns distant from Addis? Were the meetings all held in an LDS meeting house in Addis? How many organized branches are in Ethiopia? What languages were used in the conference besides Amharic?

    You mentioned that the "mission leadership in Ethiopia" had the missionaries come to Addis a day early. From the photo, it looks like there are maybe 10 young elder missionaries in Ethiopia, so 5 companionships. What cities did they come from outside Addis? Who is considered the "mission leadership in Ethiopia?"

    About how many people attended the general meeting at the district conference? Do you have any feeling for how far away they are from having their first stake in Ethiopia? With 94 million people in Ethiopia, the Church growth will really explode there some day, hopefully, not too distant.

    Did you happen to meet Thomas Thok at the conference? He is from the Nuer tribe in Akobo, South Sudan, but is living in Addis to have access for treatment for his leukemia. He holds the office of elder. He became deaf when he was 18 years old and is now about 35. He has a wife and 3 or 4 children. He may have been in Akobo at the time of the conference.